St. Louis Native and Clothing Designer Says 'Black Panther' Costumes Depict Africans in New Light

By Johnson, Kevin C. | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), February 11, 2018 | Go to article overview

St. Louis Native and Clothing Designer Says 'Black Panther' Costumes Depict Africans in New Light


Johnson, Kevin C., St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Clothing designer Kevin Mayes has worked on big movie and TV projects before, including "Selma," "Keeping Up With the Joneses," "Devious Maids," "Being Mary Jane," the reboot of "Roots" and more Tyler Perry projects than he can remember.

But Mayes, born and raised in St. Louis, had never worked on a project quite like "Black Panther," in theaters Feb. 16.

The Marvel superhero movie is set in a fictional African kingdom where the characters dress in extravagant, Afrofuturist costumes designed by Ruth Carter. Moviegoers across the country plan to see the movie on opening weekend in traditional African garb.

For "Black Panther," 57-year-old Mayes worked as head tailor and says excitement about the costumes is something he hadn't seen before.

"It's the first time many people are seeing anything like this on screen, and they're loving it," says Mayes, who says early inspiration came from "Coming to America," the 1988 comedy starring Eddie Murphy, James Earl Jones and Madge Sinclair about African royalty who move to New York City.

"It's time for us to be recognized for who we are," he says. "When you see 'Black Panther,' you see what has always been inside of you. We've always seen white people dressed to the nines. We can do the same thing."

He says depictions of Africans in history books have always been misleading, but a project like "Black Panther" "makes us look like royalty. This is on screen for everyone to see and say 'I can be a king; I can be a queen.'"

He says Carter pulled as much detail as she could from "the Motherland," adding her own flair.

Initially, her efforts to bring authenticity to the costumes weren't embraced. "It was (Marvel's) first time taking a chance on a black production," Mayes says. …

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